Spanish opposition leader outlives helicopter crash

Spanish opposition leader Mariano Rajoy and other politicians on Thursday survived a helicopter crash outside Madrid. The U.S.-made helicopter had just taken off from a bullring in the town of Mostoles when it crashed, said Esperanza Aguirre, the president of the Madrid regional government, who was in the helicopter along with Rajoy and a few other people.

The footage showed the helicopter taking off from the middle of the bull ring, slowly clearing the outer wall and then swirling as it went down. The wall appeared to be about 30-40 feet (9-10 meters) high."We could have been killed, but we are fine," Aguirre told reporters.

The regional government said the cause of the crash is under investigation and it could not confirm news reports that the helicopter's rear rotor blade had broken. Rajoy ran for prime minister as the candidate of the then-governing Popular Party in March 2004 elections, but lost to Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The elections were held three days after a string of bombings claimed by Muslim militants killed 191 people and wounded 1,500.

Television footage showed people rushing to the wreckage of the Bell 206 Twin Ranger helicopter to help extricate Rajoy and the others. Rajoy walked away from the crash site and was driven to a hospital. The helicopter, which belonged to the Madrid regional government, did not appear to graze the wall as reported earlier by Spanish National Radio.

"The helicopter was destroyed. Imagine if we had fallen from the distance at which we had planned to fly," Aguirre said. The mayor of Mostoles and a TV cameraman were also in the helicopter, along with a two-man crew, Aguirre said. Rajoy and Aguirre were in Mostoles to visit the headquarters of a new branch of the regional security forces, reports the AP. N.U.

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